Carter sat on the bathroom floor of the apartment while Mack took a shower. He’d arrived at the complex with his family in tow, and there hadn’t been time for the two of them to have a conversation, so Carter was anxious to find out what had happened after he’d left the church with the Nash brothers. “Where’s that crabby priest?” he asked.

Mack chuckled. “Your brother took him to the hospital. I think Father Kozlow might have had a heat stroke. He was yelling at empty space, and he tripped over the brick edging surrounding the side garden before he slammed into to the dumpster. Maybe he even has a concussion? I guess Tasha told you about the plans to close the Parish?”

“Not much, but she said Opie had an emergency meeting today. When is it closing and what does that mean for you?” Carter asked. The water turned off, and Mack stepped out onto the bathmat, reaching for the clean towel on the vanity. Carter grabbed the edge of it and held it as he perused Mack’s sexy body again.

He watched the water slide down a tight abdomen and strong thighs. There was dark hair on Mack’s legs, and he had a full bush, but that thick cock hung long and impressive. Carter couldn’t imagine how big it might be when it was hard, but he wanted to know more than anything.

He was fighting with every ounce of determination inside him to stay where he was on the floor. If he got too close to Mack, he’d have that dick in his mouth in record time, and he knew it wasn’t what Mack wanted.

“Be nice to me, Carter. My parents are here, and my brother thinks I have a girl on the side. I’m just trying to…” Mack began.

Carter stood and kissed the priest’s cheek as he took the towel. “I can control myself, okay? I won’t jeopardize your reputation nor the respect your family has for you, I promise. It’s just that I haven’t had sex in a long time, and you’re like live porn to me, okay? I’ll damn well remember this view later, but I’m not going to violate you, Father McCord.”

Carter was gently drying Mack’s hard body, and he hated himself for the self-imposed torture, but he just needed a little something to get him through the next few weeks… or months. They did have more significant issues to tackle than sex, but the spank reel would come in handy later that night when Carter was in his room alone and aching.

After Mack left the bathroom, Carter closed the door, stripped, and stepped into the shower, turning the water over to the cold setting to bring him back from the brink. He needed to get his shit together, so he didn’t fuck up Mack’s time with his family. He liked Shan and Paddy. They were funny, and they seemed to like him as well.

Carter wondered if their opinion of him would change when Mack’s family learned it wasn’t a young woman Mack was interested in who might lead him astray from the religious life. Carter didn’t know what Mack’s thoughts might be regarding the situation, but he hoped there was some miracle out there that signaled they were meant to be together. To Carter, having Mack in his life as a partner was like a dream. An unattainable dream.


After he finished his second shower in as many hours, Carter towel-dried his hair, dressed, and hurried downstairs to return to the party. Paul was in the pool with Mack’s brothers and sisters while Mack and Tasha were talking as they sat on the top step of the pool with their feet in the water.

Opie was speaking to Mr. and Mrs. McCord, and Carter wasn’t sure where he should sit and into which conversation he should try to insert himself. He was trying to keep his head about him, but there were too many things going on at one time.

Carter gave up his amateur analysis of the situation and grabbed a beer from the big ice chest on the pool deck before he took a seat next to his brother where he believed he’d be the safest. “How’s that mean priest?” Carter asked without any compassion for the old man at all.

He noticed Mrs. McCord sitting at the table, and she didn’t appear to be pleased with the tone of his voice. Carter refused to feign being someone he wasn’t. It just wasn’t his way, and he wasn’t sorry about it at all.

“The doctor seems to think he might have suffered a heatstroke. He was talking crazy, and his body temperature was high. Dr. Chambers sent the firemen out to the church, and they took a temperature reading inside the office. It was one-hundred-twelve, which is unbearable for a human longer than a few minutes at a time.

“Considering Father Kozlow spent several hours inside the office and then walked around the churchyard for a few hours, his body would have overheated enough it could have been a heatstroke. They had a hard time drawing blood because he was dehydrated so they were pumping him with cooled saline and had him covered in some cooling blankets.

“Father Mack said he was talking out of his head. Heck, he even claimed you were going to plant him in the flower bed beside the church. I asked them to call me if there’s any change in his condition. He doesn’t have any living family so someone from the Diocese will come out to oversee his care, I suspect. They have his Power of Attorney, so he’s their responsibility, but I feel like I owe him something. Did you phone your Parole Officer? You need to see her soon.”

Carter wanted to put his brother on the floor and ask him what the fuck was wrong with him, feeling sorry for that mean old priest. He wasn’t sure how much Opie knew about what those boys had been through, but it seemed to Carter his brother had decided he’d just fall in line with the rest of the sheep at that church and ignore those boys’ pleas for help. Kozlow had allowed the Nash grandparents to mistreat two innocents. How could anyone disregard the old man’s guilt in that situation?

Of course, he didn’t say any of that with the McCord’s sitting there. “I didn’t, but that was because Tasha needed help with the Nash boys today since they were both upset. I’ll call my PO tomorrow, okay? There will still need to be work done at the church. I only have two-hundred hours, Opie. I’m sure I can find something to do after the church is closed,” Carter defended.

Carter saw Mack’s father look at him with a curious look regarding why he was doing community service. “It’s a long story. I was incarcerated at Farmington State Correctional for four-and-a-half years. Opie got me out early because the judge was prejudiced. I was living in a halfway house for a few months, and now I’m living here, but I’m still on parole. Working at the church was a condition of my early release,” Carter explained.

Mack’s mother’s eyebrows rose pretty high, and he could tell she had questions, but Opie stepped in with a friendly grin. “Carter saved a young guy from being murdered. This idiot who took steroids went a little crazy at…” Opie explained.

Carter turned to see Mack looking at him with concern. He didn’t want the man to worry, so he gave him a discrete wink before he listened to what Opie was saying. “He’s a hero, really.”

Carter laughed. “Don’t go blowing things out of proportion. There was a seventeen-year-old boy in the locker room minding his own business. He’d been swimming in the pool while his grandmother was working out. Some steroid-induced psycho lost his shit and started beating the kid into the floor because he didn’t like the song the boy was humming. I stopped the damage from being much worse than it was and then I did time because I nearly killed the other guy. I haven’t lost control again since that day,” Carter clarified.

Mack discreetly hurried over to the table and grinned at his family. “Why so serious?” he asked as he took a chair next to Carter.

Mrs. McCord cleared her throat. “Well, Mr. Riggs was just telling us he tried to kill a man with his bare hands because the man was fighting with a teenage boy in the locker room. I guess I’m just a little surprised he lives here, what with a child in the home. It sounds as if maybe Mr. Riggs should be in some sort of anger management program or rehabilitation therapy institution,” Mrs. McCord stated, her voice filled with reproach.

Carter wasn’t surprised, but he also wasn’t going to defend himself. The woman was entitled to her opinion. Mack, however, stood from the table, his anger rolling off of him in waves. “Mom, you don’t know the circumstances of that situation, so don’t offer your opinion where it’s not wanted or needed.”

Tasha walked up and placed a beer in front of Carter before she kissed his cheek. She stood up tall and smiled at her guest, trying to hold her temper as Carter could see by her clenching jaw. “Mrs. McCord, what Rigger won’t tell you is that the guy he saved was my little brother. Until recently, Bas has been in a wheelchair. The man who attacked him slammed him into a steel support leg of a bench, breaking several vertebrae in his back which caused damage to his spinal cord.

“Thanks to Rigger, my brother is able to walk with the aid of crutches and braces on his legs. While Carter was in prison, he made sure Opie brought home exercise routines for Bas so he could build his upper body strength to get him out of the wheelchair,” she explained as she squeezed Carter’s shoulder, offering her love and gratitude.

“Tasha, it’s okay. Mrs. McCord doesn’t know me from anything. I was a personal trainer and an MMA fighter. The man who attacked Tash’s brother was someone I knew, and he wouldn’t have stopped with the boy until he was dead. At the time, I didn’t have any idea who Bastian was; what I saw was just an innocent victim who was outweighed by about a hundred pounds, and I also knew what type of damage Louie was capable of doing. We’d fought a few times in the ring, and I knew he was crazy. I did what I believed was necessary at the time. I’m not a violent person by nature,” he offered.

Mack, who was still standing, stepped behind Carter’s chair, resting his hands on Carter’s shoulders. “He pled guilty to the charges, and he went to prison for saving the life of an innocent person. You need to step back and look at it from all sides, Mother,” he demanded with anger still laced in his tone.

Carter placed his right hand over Mack’s hand on his right shoulder without thinking. “It’s okay. They can ask their questions. It’s good they worry about you. I do, too,” he offered quietly. Carter looked up and saw Mack’s beautiful eyes looking down at him with love. That was all the comfort he needed.

After dinner, they all sat on the pool deck, relaxing. Carter and Mack were sitting on the top step of the pool deck with their feet in the water, and Carter noticed Mack’s parents were staring at him. “You need to go talk with them, babe. They’re worried about you, and I can’t blame them. I’ll go up to the apartment so you can spend time with them. Opie and Tash will go inside if I give them a signal, and you can talk with your parents in private. It’s fine,” Carter told him.

Mack looked at him and smiled. “Wait up for me? I want to hear about the Nash brothers.”

Carter nodded. “Gladly. I thought we could go to Brimlee to the laundromat tomorrow night and get a pizza from Goodies. I didn’t get to eat any of the pizza you bought,” he teased.

Mack chuckled. “It’s a date. I’ll be up soon.”

Carter stood and walked over to the table, stopping behind Opie. “I’m sorry to take off, but I need to talk to these guys and then I need to hit the sack. It’s been nice to meet all of you, and I hope we can get to know each other better. Have a safe trip home tomorrow,” he offered as he shook hands with Mark, Paddy, and Sean McCord. Erin and Shannon hugged him, and Mrs. McCord just nodded at him without any show of emotion.

Opie and Tasha said their goodbyes and the three Riggs’ went into the house. Carter saw the Lego’s from earlier in the afternoon, so he went over to clean them up before he went to the apartment. Tasha’s gasp caught his attention. “What are you doing? Paul will go nuclear if those aren’t there in exactly the way Denny and Donnie left them. Until those boys get to come visit again, we can’t touch those,” Tasha instructed.

Carter looked at Opie seeing him smile at his wife. “I told you I’ll get a lawyer on Tuesday. You can call Stef tomorrow and find out where they were placed. We’ll do what we can, Tasha Lyn. Go to bed, honey. I’ll be up in a few. I want to talk to Carter,” Opie suggested to his wife before he kissed her lips and escorted her to the stairs. When she was out of earshot, Opie took Carter’s arm and directed him to the front door. Once they were on the front porch, Opie pushed Carter onto the porch swing and joined him.

“You know you’ve made my life a lot harder because Tasha wants us to fight for the Nash boys. I’m not totally opposed to fostering them, but I’m not sure about adopting them. They’ll have issues if what you told Tash is half true, and I’m worried about how that will affect Paul. How will he handle it if we take in two boys so much older than him?” Opie asked.

Carter could tell it was just that his brother was worried about the well-being of his son, not that he wasn’t seriously considering what would happen to Denny and Donnie. Carter had an easy answer for that question. “I think when Paul gets older and learns the truth about how he came to have two older brothers because his parents were the most amazing people in the world, he won’t care. Paul will have built-in support and protection. Denny is so protective of Donnie in the only way the older boy knows how to be. Paul will be happy he has older brothers, just like I’m happy I have you.

“Look, Opie, I know you probably had a hard time believing Tasha when she told you those boys were only allowed to piss three times a day. It’s not a lie, I promise you. You need to spend time with them and listen to them when they just talk. They’re not allowed to have warm showers. They can’t use the bathroom in the house, for fuck’s sake. They eat something called hard-tack and deer jerky for lunch, Opie. Denny only drinks two glasses of water a day because he doesn’t want to give that old bitch a reason to be mad,” Carter relayed, his anger swelling again.

After taking a few breaths, Carter continued. “She doesn’t want them anymore, but those boys would go back to her because she’s all they’ve ever known. They’ve tried so fucking hard to be perfect, but kids aren’t perfect, Opie. We used to get into trouble all the time when we were younger. Denny and Donnie don’t have that luxury. They aren’t allowed to be typical teenagers,” Carter reminded, on the verge of tears, which was unusual for him.

He clapped his brother on the shoulder. “Come on, man. You have this big house. Denny will be eighteen just after Paul starts kindergarten. Tasha said you guys aren’t even thinking about having another baby until Paul’s in school. You can do this, and I’ll help you as much as I can, I swear,” Carter promised.

He saw his brother’s gaze fall to the floor before he looked at Carter. “I don’t want to sound selfish, but I don’t know if I’m able to love someone else’s children, Carter. I don’t know if I can be a dad to two teen boys I don’t know. That’s a lot to ask.”

Carter shook his head, searching for anything he could offer until he finally hit on something. “If I even thought I had a shot at getting custody of those boys, I’d do anything I could because they’re two boys who deserve a chance. It’s your choice, but I’ll remind you that you had faith in me, even when Mom and Dad walked away from me because they said what I’d done brought shame on them. You, however, like to say I’m a hero, though I don’t feel like one.”

Carter had one more thing to say. “Oren Paul, we both know they our parents were embarrassed by me being their son when I told them I’m gay. They just used the attack and my guilty plea as a reason to legitimize their desire to be rid of me and have people feel sorry for them. They have a queer son they can’t accept, so they walked—no ran—away. Their rejection did hurt me, but they didn’t abuse me. They didn’t beat me, starve me, nor did they tell me I could only piss three times a day. Hell, Oren and Bernice were a fucking walk in the park compared to the Nashes,” he concluded.

“You do what you must, Opie. I can’t tell you what to do, but good luck with Tasha. I think you might be in for a little trouble with her. I’ve never heard her cuss as much as she did today after the boys left. Night,” Carter offered as he walked down the front steps of the house and around the pool fence, taking the apartment stairs two at a time.

Once he was inside, he flopped onto his bed and tried to stay awake, but the day had been trying. He drifted into a peaceful sleep, imagining Mack’s arms around him. It felt amazing. Carter needed all of the comforts he could get, even if it was only imaginary. Someday it would be real. He believed in Mack, and he couldn’t wait for their life together to begin out in the open.

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